That’s what separated me from the bus that was departing before my eyes, and which was supposed to take me home for the weekend.
I remember this cloudy Friday evening from a few years back pretty vividly. As a college kid anxiously anticipating coming home for the weekend, missing my bus was not a pleasant experience.
Especially considering I was seconds away from catching it. And I had to wait two hours for the next one.
At the time, I was learning Spanish. Loved it. But what I didn’t realize was that my travel woes were actually an awesome language learning opportunity.
Since then, I’ve learned how I could’ve made way better use of those two hours. That is, I now know how important it is for a language student to take any learning opportunities that arise. After much trial and error, I’ve picked up a thing or two about how to make the best of on-the-go language learning.
And today I’m going to share my tactics with you.
This post will cover the tips and tools you need to learn French while commuting, waiting in line at the bank or on a plane. Okay, ready?
Why Learn French on the Go?
- It’s a realistic way of learning. We’re busier by day. Hectic lives, taxing jobs and time-consuming hobbies quickly eat away our precious time.
I have good news, though. Learning on the go is the optimal way to use our time. Why burden yourself by trying to cram hours upon hours of study into your already tight schedule?
Easy, my friend. Balancing out your work, studies, hobbies and French learning is definitely doable, granted you make learning a priority and follow our helpful guide. Don’t shy away from improving your French skills on the go, even if that means dedicating just a few minutes to it at a time.
- It’s a more digestible learning method. Have you ever found yourself anxiously staring at the clock during a three-hour class? I’ll admit I have. Although we love learning new languages, there’s only so much material we can expend mental energy on without burning ourselves out.
Think about it. You wouldn’t eat a whole steak at once even if it was the most expensive and juiciest one on the menu, would you? You probably would savor it bite by bite, taking your time. Learning on the go, similarly, is an opportunity to go at your own rhythm and pace. Baby steps, that’s the motto!
- Small progress adds up over time. Speaking of small steps, don’t let those fool you into thinking you’re not making progress. It’s quite the opposite. Baby steps surprisingly add up over time. Those five minutes listening to a French song while waiting for the bus might not feel like much, but I can guarantee you they’re a crucial element to your learning process.
Actually, I’d argue that regular small steps are better than drawn-out but irregular studying sessions in the long run. Why? Because since learning with small bites doesn’t sound like much effort you’ll actually stick to it, which is precisely what produces results down the road!
“Patience et longueur de temps font plus que force ni que rage,” said Jean de La Fontaine in “Le Lion et le Rat” (“The Lion and the Rat”), meaning “Patience and time do more than strength and rage [ever could].”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and consistency trumps intensity. The snowball effect is your friend here!
- It’s affordable. Shelling out hard-earned cash to attend classes or pay for tutoring lessons isn’t an affordable option for everybody. Even the cost of textbooks can quickly add up over time. The silver lining? Learning French with on-the-go tools (like the ones we’ll cover later in this post) doesn’t require bleeding your bank account.
It’s an affordable way of taking your French skills to the next level, and what’s more, it’s even outright free most of the time! Yep, you heard that right.
- It’s a versatile and fun way of learning. Music lover? Always up to date with the current news? Or maybe you just enjoy quizzing yourself and polishing your grammar and vocabulary skills.
Well, all of that’s fine because learning on the go is pretty versatile. You get to choose the time and intensity you’re dedicating to learning and how often you learn. Feels awesome to be in control, right? Plus you can switch between different learning methods whenever you feel like doing so. No burden. Just simplicity. Talk about freedom!
5 Easy Steps for Learning French on the Go
1. Recognize Every Opportunity to Study, No Matter How Brief!
Even five minutes of learning are valuable. Yes, that’s crucial. Don’t think that just because you’ve got a short bus ride today, it’s not worth studying some French. What’s important here is consistency.
Getting short but consistent French practice will help you build momentum in your studies. Before you know it, learning French will be one of your healthy habits—a regular part of your day. So look for every opportunity to get in some French practice, whether it’s 30 seconds quizzing yourself while waiting in line at the bank, listening to a French song you like while walking to your next meeting or listening to a French podcast during your morning jog.
Ultimately, learning French should become a reflex no matter where you are. The sooner you work toward that the better. You’re probably already looking at your smartphone multiple times a day to check new trendy recipes on Pinterest or to chat with your friends on Facebook. Well, maybe it’s time to switch up those reflexes a bit. You’ll be grateful you’ve adopted new, positive reflexes in the long run!
We tend to vigorously delve into any new learning endeavor, but doing so is usually a shortcut to burning out and giving up before we reach our goals. The sooner you realize that, the more likely you are to succeed in the long-term.
2. Download On-the-go Learning Material in Advance
Having learning material already downloaded on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or other devices is a key step to being able to study French anytime, anywhere.
If you take the time to download learning material beforehand, everything you need will be at your fingertips. No excuses not to study! Plus, this tip comes in pretty handy if you ever find yourself in an area with poor or nonexistent WiFi.
But, wait a minute—what kind of French materials should you be downloading, exactly?
Well, this question brings us to…
3. Choose Diverse French Learning Tools
You wouldn’t become fluent in French if you only ever read one textbook start to finish. It’s the same with non-traditional learning tools—you need to diversify in order to build all your language skills and understand French in a variety of contexts. Here are some awesome on-the-go learning tools to get you started:
- Language apps: Handy, versatile, cheap, efficient apps are some of the most powerful tools when it comes to learning French. Among the myriad French learning apps available on the market, two are particularly compelling…
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% personalized experience.
It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
MosaLingua is an app available both for Android and iOS that promises to help you learn French in just 10 minutes a day. The app is well structured and easy to navigate, with a focus on vocabulary building, pronunciation and grammar, and it’s quite affordable.
- Authentic French music: If you’re a music lover then I have great news for you. French music can help you immerse yourself more in French culture no matter where you are. From rap to pop-rock to more experimental works, you’re guaranteed to find something you’ll love. Artists whose songs are relatively easy to understand and relate to include Stromae, Indila and Louane.
YouTube and Spotify are handy, versatile tools for you to get your French music game on. Next time you’re waiting for the bus or jogging in the woods don’t forget to listen up to some French music!
- French learner podcasts: No matter what language skills you need to drill, from grammar to pronunciation, there’s a podcast out there for you. But what’s especially great about podcasts is they often have short, digestible episodes that you can tear through on your lunch break or while you’re stuck in traffic. One such quality podcast is Coffee Break French.
For entertaining but focused French lessons anywhere, you should also check out FrenchPod101. The team behind this resource are prolific, so you won’t run out of their awesome audio and video lessons anytime soon. The hosts are highly trained but also fun to listen to. Plus, you get tons of additional materials along with the podcast, like PDF lesson notes and a community forum, so you can easily expand on your on-the-go studies if you want to.
- Digital newspapers and news outlets: Most French newspapers and news outlets offer apps, which is fantastic if you want to catch up with the latest news while at the same time working on your French skills when you don’t have much time to learn. You can find apps for many prominent French news outlets including Le Monde, Franceinfo (iOS, Android) and Courrier international.
4. Put Your Inner Monologue in French
Downloading learning material in advance and making learning on the go a habit are crucial elements but one more thing you ought to work on is flexibility. If your phone runs out of batteries or you leave your headphones at work, don’t use that as an excuse to give up French learning for the day!
One handy device you’ll always have on you is your brain. Simply thinking in French as you go about your day is an awesome, flexible and realistic way to build your language skills.
It’s possible even if you’re a total beginner. Look for objects that you know the French translation for and think or say them aloud. Recite conjugation rules in your head that you studied the night before. Whatever you know, take some time to practice!
As you advance, you’ll be able to hold entire mental monologues in French. To really kick your learning up a notch, try writing them down and checking for accuracy once you get home.
5. Be Confident About Your Progress
If you’re accustomed to learning in traditional settings you might, at first, feel like learning on the go isn’t the optimal way to get results. And that’s understandable. Adapting to new learning methods can shake up our expectations, attitude and mindset.
That phase passes, though. With consistency and the right tools, your on-the-go learning will yield positive results quickly. Every week or month, take stock of what you’ve learned and recent linguistic triumphs, no matter how small. You might be astonished at how those few minutes here and there contributed to your success, and when you’re seeing fast, tangible results that’s even more motivation to continue learning!
You know now why it’s so rewarding and important to learn French on the go. You even know how to make the best of your time.
So, what are you waiting for?
Go explore the world, and skyrocket your French practice at the same time!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.